Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mt. Maude - Spider Gap - Cloudy Pass - Image Lake - Buck Creek Pass Loop Backpacking Trip

This isn't really a trip report, more of a collection of notes. I wanted to write down some thoughts while they were still fresh in my mind, and didn't feel inspired to actually put them together into coherent prose.
Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop Backpack
Also, check out the route using Picasa's map view.
Sunday, August 16
  • No insoles in my boots! (Expletives deleted). Time to improvise. Cut insoles from the felt/rubber liner sheet in Amy's trunk. These insoles actually worked quite well --- my feet were definitely a bit sore after the last long downhill day, but no major problems.
  • Hiked from Phelps Creek Trailhead (3500') to Leroy Basin (around 6000'), maybe 3.5 miles on the main Phelps Creek trail, then another couple of miles up the unmaintained high-route trail. Set up camp. Climbed Mt. Maude (9082') via the standard southern route, first over the pass towards Ice Lakes then up gentle scree from there. Fairly straightforward. Descended by a more direct route on much looser scree. There would be danger of rockfall if multiple parties were on this descent, but otherwise not bad and saves quite a bit of time. But I wouldn't want to go up it. No mosquitoes.
  • Saw some deer in the basin in the evening while having dinner.
  • Dinner: Tuna Mac (angel hair pasta, packet of tuna, packet of cheese from a mac&cheese box, olive oil, powdered milk, spices). Could have used more spicing as the tuna wasn't marinated, but still quite good.
Monday, August 17
  • Back down to the main trail, a pretty brutal descent back to around 4100', then up to Spider Gap (7100'), down past upper Lyman Lakes and Lyman Lake (5500'), and up to Cloudy Pass (6438'). Probably around 10.5 miles and about 4000' elevation gain in total.
  • Took a bunch of pictures of small marmots in the basin in the morning, and also saw a very large rockfall (one horse-sized boulder and friends) come down into the meadow, in a line close enough to me that I took off running.
  • Bad flies in Spider Meadows, where we had lunch.
  • Took a good rest near some beautiful campsites just below spider gap -- apparently Larch Knob.
  • Mosquitoes at the upper Lyman lakes. We hoped wind would keep them down in Cloudy Pass, but they found us there in good numbers as well.
  • We camped quite close to the actual pass, but better views can be had by moving up the ridge closer to Cloudy Peak. We got in fairly late in the day (it was a long one), so we took the closest appealing option. The views were still great.
  • Fat marmots around Lyman Lake, the first of many such sitings.
  • Dinner: Freeze-dried Mexican beef & rice with tortillas and cheddar cheese. Chocolate-caramel pudding for dessert.
Tuesday, August 18
  • A short day: from Cloudy Pass (6438') through Suiattle Pass (5893') along Miners Ridge to Image Lake (6056'). Probably around 6 miles total.
  • Pumped water at the lake outflow, had a good snack and rest, went for a swim. Walked around the lake in bare feet in wonderful mud. Highly recommended.
  • The views from the walk along the ridge above Image Lake are spectacular in all directions, and should be considered a mandatory part of any visit to the lake in my opinion.
  • Dinner: First course of instant thai ginger soup (rice noodle based, from Fred Meyer, quite good), followed by mushroom & herb coos-coos mix with olive oil, sausage, and lots of pine nuts. A square of good dark chocolate for dessert.
  • Some bugs at the lake and at camp, but overall not too bad.
Wednesday, August 19
  • We traversed the ridge above Image Lake northeast to the highpoint around 6800', then followed the ridge spur south to rejoin the trail. Back along Miners Ridge, down across Miners Creek, and up to Middle Ridge, then the spur trail 1 mile farther to Sheep Camp (around 6400'). About 9.8 miles (plus another 0.5 mile to our camp).
  • A few patches of blueberries along Miners Ridge about a mile from Image Lake were perfectly ripe; we picked a bunch.
  • We actually camped on a bench overlooking the main basin at Sheep Camp. It's a beautiful spot, complete with a perfect square flat granite rock for a kitchen counter.
  • Dinner: Instant everything-flavored mashed potatoes with an added package of pre-cooked crumbled bacon, and cheddar cheese. Pistachio pudding for dessert.
  • Bugs weren't bad when the sun was high, but the mosquitoes got mean as the sun went down. Each time I would try to make a loop to tie a knot for the bear bag, two would land on the back of my hand and start stabbing before I could finish, necessitating a swat and hence starting the knot over.
Thursday, August 20
  • From our site on Middle Ridge (6500'), down to Small Creek (~5100'), up to Buck Creek Pass (5900'), and up the old High Pass trail to the saddle south of Liberty Cap (6400'). Climbed up Liberty Cap (~6700') looking for good campsites, but didn't find anything great. Back to the saddle, I went downhill and found water. We set up camp there, hung the bear bag, and continued towards Triad Lake on the trail. It was much smoother going than we expected, and we were at the saddle above Triad Lake in about 30 minutes ... I wish we'd set up camp in that area. Climbed to point 7625'. About 5 miles to the camp, and maybe another 4-5 miles of other hiking.
  • Heavy haze and smoke in the sky in the morning caused some concern about wildfires.
  • We saw a black bear climbing over a very steep rock ridge just below point 7625'. We waited until we were fairly certain the bear had descended the far side before climbing up that way. We also saw a large hawk of some kind soaring at about our level over Buck Creek.
  • Breakfast: Granola with powdered milk and over a cup each of wild blueberries, picked the day before at Image Lake.
  • A few drops of rain, and lightning in a large thunderhead North of us in the evening. Temperature dropped in the night, probably the coldest of the trip (still pretty warm) by morning.
  • Dinner: Freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini, mint-chocolate pudding.
Friday, August 21
  • From our camp south of Liberty Cap (6400'), back through Buck Creek Pass, and down to the trinity trailhead (2800'), about 11.3 miles, then another 2-3 miles for me to do the car shuttle, back to the Phelps Creek Trailhead (3500').
  • In the morning the tent, bearbag, and vegetation were all quite wet. I'm not sure if it was a light rain or jut condensation.
  • Milkshake and cobbler (very good) and pulled pork and salmon burger (pretty good) at the 59er dinner just back on Hwy 2.
General notes:
  • About 49 miles hiking with our packs plus another 10 or so miles of day-trip hikes, and about 14,200' of elevation gain. (I computed elevation gain by comparing our high points and low points, it doesn't account for the smaller ups and downs in the trails).
  • Pack weight:
    • Food: about 21 lbs of which I probably carried (and ate) 55%, so 11.5 lbs initially. For a 6-day trip this was a little less than I would normally carry (I usually figure 2 lbs per person-day), but it ended up being fine; I could certainly have eaten more, but I was also never really hungry.
    • Camera gear (5dmkII, 24-105, 70-300, Slik Sprint Pro tripod), about 8.4 lbs.
    • Group gear carried (stove, fuel, kitchen gear, most of tent): 4.77 lbs
    • Personal gear, including pack: 10.7 lbs (plus 1.7 lbs worn).
    • Average 2L water carried, for 4.4 lbs
    • Total: about 39.7 pounds
    • The above was all calculated in excel from a gear list ... actually weight is probably a bit heavier for some stuff sacks and other random things not included in the above total.
  • Our trash weighed about 253g (8.9oz) at the end of the trip, not counting the 2 large Aloc Sacks we used to store the food, the bear-bag stuff sack, and 3 or 4 small ziplocks that still had some food left. So packaging weight is somewhat significant. Note that this was after almost complete repackaging into light-weight ziplocks, typically holding two portions of food each per meal.
  • Bear bagging required some tricky engineering using multiple trees, and still didn't always produce hangs up to the full recommended specification. As much as I'd hate to carry the extra weight, I'll seriously consider bear canisters next time I'm on a trip where most of the camping will be near treeline.